Amaze your friends and family during your visit to the Netherlands and see what new things you can discover about the country with these 15 interesting and fun facts about Dutch culture.
1. The Netherlands is one of the most densely populated countries in Europe
The Netherlands’ small size actually makes it the most crowded country in Europe, thanks to the current population being at more than 17 million (as of July 2019). The density is 508 people per square kilometre. In comparison, the United Kingdom has a population density of only 277 people per square kilometre. Over 45% of the total population of the Netherlands live in the Randstad, which makes up the cities of Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam and Utrecht.
2. Dutch men are the tallest in the world
Dutch men have come out on top as the tallest people in the world in multiple studies throughout the years, at an average of 1.83 m (6’0”). The women were also found to be tall, with an average height of 1.69 m (5’7”), losing as the tallest only to women in Latvia. Some theories for the growth spurt in the Netherlands are natural selection, universal healthcare, and a diet rich in cheese!
3. The Netherlands was the first country to legalize same-sex marriage
Laws permitting gay marriage and those that allowed same-sex couples to adopt children came into effect on April 1, 2001. The mayor of Amsterdam at the time, Job Cohen, married four couples at midnight on April 1 to commemorate the occasion. Amsterdam itself is also known for being very LGBT-friendly, with its many gay bars and the Homomonument in the center of the city, a tribute to the lives of gay men and women.
4. The national anthem is the oldest in the world
The Wilhelmus is the country’s national anthem. Although it did not become the official anthem until 1932, the music dates back to at least the year 1572, making it the oldest melody used in a country’s anthem. The origin of the lyrics are uncertain, but it is said that the words are at least 400 years old.
5. It is the lowest country in Europe
The Netherlands can be translated to “the low lands,” so it’s safe to say that the country is one of the lowest in the world. Almost one third of the country is below sea level, and even 60 percent of the population lives 5 metres (16 feet) below sea level. The highest point in the Netherlands is Vaalserberg, a hill with a height of 322 metres (1,058 feet) above sea level, and the lowest is Zuidplaspolder, which is 7 metres (22 feet) below sea level. (Bonus fact: Vaalserberg is actually also the exact point where Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands meet!)
6. Carrots are orange because of the Dutch
Carrots are known for their distinct orange coloring. However, they weren’t always this way. Dating back to the 10th century, the vegetable was likely originally white or purple. William III of England, who was often known as William the Orange, helped in gaining Dutch independence from Spain in the 17th century. The story goes that Dutch farmers turned their carrots orange as a tribute, and the new color became more popular than before, and continues to be the Netherland’s official color today.
7. King’s Day was originally Queen’s Day
King’s Day on the 27th of April is the largest celebration in the Netherlands. It wasn’t always this way, though. There had been a long line of reigning queens since 1890, and the Dutch celebrated accordingly with Queen’s Day on the 30th of April. When former Queen Beatrix passed the throne down to her son in April 2013, King’s Day was born. The day changed to King Willem-Alexander’s birthday, the 27th of April.
8. Tulips are not native to the Netherlands
The Netherlands is known for its tulips. However, you may be surprised to find that tulips are not native to the Netherlands, but instead Turkey. A period known as “Tulip Mania” in the 17th century gripped the Netherlands, where the price of bulbs rose and fell. Tulips only became synonymous with the country after World War II when the Dutch used the bulbs as a food source. Today, the flowers have become a large part of Dutch culture, and tourists travel to the country every year to visit the Keukenhof tulip gardens, the largest flower garden in the world.
9. The Netherlands is one of the happiest countries in the world
Every year, the United Nations releases their World Happiness Report, which surveys the state of global happiness. The Netherlands ranked 5th in the world for the happiest country in the 2019 report. It followed Finland, Denmark, Norway, and Iceland. The country has consistently found its way in the top 10 since the report’s original publication in 2012!
10. Amsterdam alone has over 1,200 bridges
Bridges are a staple in Amsterdam, thanks to the canals and waterways that take up most of the city. Some bridges are historic, some are lit up at night, and all are beautiful sights to see. Travellers can even visit the crossing of the Reguliersgracht and the Herengracht to see 15 bridges at once.
11. The city of Houten is one of the safest in the country
Houten is located in the province of Utrecht, which is in the center of the country. Like many other cities in the Netherlands, Houten has its residents use bicycles as their main source of transportation. The city planners created pathways exclusively for bikers and pedestrians, causing cars to only travel along the outskirts. This type of planning makes it safer for all forms of travel.
12. Clogs are not as popular as they seem
The Dutch are known for wooden shoes called clogs. Clogs are a traditional footwear dating back to the 13th century, but most Dutch residents don’t wear them today in the cities, and the shoes have instead become a tourist icon. Outside of the big cities, however, travellers may see farmers and other village townspeople still rocking the footwear.
13. The Netherlands has one of the highest English proficiencies
The non-native English speakers of the Netherlands had the highest proficiency in the world in 2016 and 2017. Rest assured that English-speaking visitors will easily be able to find someone who understands them and are eager to help!
13. The government focuses on green energy
Promoting green energy has become a vivid topic in Dutch politics. The government has made plans to reduce the country’s emissions of greenhouse gases to zero by 2050. It also hopes to ban petrol- and diesel-powered cars by 2030, making way for more electric vehicles.
14. There are over 1,000 windmills
Another Dutch staple in popular culture is its many windmills. With over 1,000 on Dutch land, these mills allow for the use of wind to drain wetlands, grind grains, and even power a sawmill, such as the Molen de Otter in Amsterdam. Unfortunately, with buildings being built higher and higher around them, some mills that are still in operation can no longer catch the wind. Many mills today are used as tourist attractions, such as the Zaanse Schans, and others only open their doors to visitors on National Mill Day, the second Saturday and Sunday in May.
15. Western Frisian is an official language
Western Frisian is the only regionally-specific official language of the Netherlands. While many Frisian languages are spoken throughout Northern Europe, West Frisian is spoken mainly in the province of Friesland in the Netherlands and only has about 450,000 speakers. Many experts believe that it is the language most closely related to English.